The Six Best Pianists of All Time

As an aspiring pianist, one of the best ways to improve your craft is by listening to those who excel at the piano play and perform. While not all students have the time or the opportunity to check out a performance by their local philharmonic or orchestra, nearly all of us have access to the internet or have a library card. The next time you’re browsing online, why not check out some of the great pianists on this list? Not only will you be inspired to sit down and practice the piano, but you may even come across a song or two you’d like to learn as you excel at your craft.

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Born in Russia in 1873, Rachmaninov graduated from the Moscow Conservatorium in the same class as Alexander Scriabin. His Piano Concerto No. 2 has often been voted the most popular piece of classical music of all time, and if you continue to excel at the piano you’re bound to learn this piece at some point in the future. Known for his clean finger technique, Rachmaninov was able to remain clarity, even in the most difficult of passages. This was partly due to his large hands. They were able to span 12 inches!


Arthur Rubinstein

This Polish American pianist has the reputation of being the best Chopin performer of all time. He was found to have perfect pitch at the age of two, and made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic at the age of 13, making him among the youngest musicians ever to debut with a philharmonic. One thing that truly set Rubinstein apart from others on this list was the amount of effort he put into researching the repertoire he played. Where other pianists only pretended they had researched their subject, his performances were chock full of integrity.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Another prolific composer and pianist, Mozart was touted as being a musical genius from a very young age. Already competent on the keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed for European royalty when he wasn’t much older. Throughout his life composed more than 600 works, many of them acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic and operatic music. He is among the most prolific and most popular classical composers of all time, and his legacy will last for centuries to come.


Vladimir Horowitz

This Russian-born pianist left for the West at age 21, where he was truly able to perfect his craft. He’s most well known for his performances of Romantic piano repertoire, and surprisingly he returned to Russia for his farewell recital in 1986. One of the best live performers on this list, he had a true talent for thrilling his audience, and his live recitals were almost always sold out. What made him unique was his ability to chisel his feelings and moods out of the harmonic material of the score, which any piano player will be able to identify just by listening to his music online.

Emil Gilels

Along with Sviatoslav Richter, Gilels became the leading Soviet pianist of his day. He was even among the first Soviet musicians allowed to perform in the West. His “golden” sound set him apart from his peers, along with his unique ability to make everything he played seem simple. Along with Rubinstein, Gilels had perfect pitch, and at the age of five and a half began lessons with a prominent piano teacher in Odessa. He’s universally admired for his superb technical control and burnished tone, and he had an extensive repertoire that went from baroque to late Romantic and 20th century classical composers.

Ludwig van Beethoven

No list would be complete with Beethoven, one of the most revered pianists and composers of all time. His playing differs greatly from that of his contemporaries, and as a composer, he is much admired for his use of legato and the singing tone he was able to produce. By his 20s, his hearing began to deteriorate and he spent the last decade of his life completely deaf. A critical figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Classical music, he remains one of the most recognized and influential composers of all time.


Purchase Classical Sheet Music From Music & Arts

At Music & Arts, we’re dedicated to bringing you one of the largest offerings of professional band and orchestral instruments, products, and accessories in the world, including classical sheet music from many of the pianists on this list. We’re a one-stop shop for students, parents, and educators alike, so browse our selection of sheet music today. Head into your local store or contact our customer support team if you have questions.

Related Articles

Parent's Instrument Rental Guide

Playing Music Makes You Smarter

Learn More